Q. I suffer from hay fever, but I love my garden and plants, how can I enjoy my garden without plants?
A. Hay fever is miserable, and can make what should be a lovely spring and summer an endurance test. But, whilst you cannot control what your neighbours grow, there are many options for plants that will not add to the hay fever burden in your garden.
There are some plants and trees which are absolute no-no’s. In fact many of our most common and stately trees are some of the worst offenders sadly. Silver birch (Betula spp.), above, is one of the worst offenders of all the plants and trees, yet is so common in gardens and street scenes, and Quercus (oak), Populus (poplar), and Acer pseudoplatinus (sycamore) are also bad for allergy sufferers.
In terms of plants, avoid sunflowers, chrysanthemums and dahlias among others. Plants that are least likely to affect you are those that are pollinated by insects, rather than wind, those that have a shorter flowering time, and those that have heavy, sticky pollen. Male plants are also a problem, since they are the pollen producers, not the females. Some plant varieties are male or female only, whereas some plants have both male and female flowers on one plant. An example of male and female plants is Ilex (holly) – it is the female varieties and cultivars which carry the berries, males will never bear berries but will produce pollen. A completely pollen-free tree is Acer ‘Autumn Glory’, and double hollyhocks have virtually no pollen either (in fact many double flowers are good for allergy-free gardening).
Follow these guidelines and it is perfectly possible to have a fabulous garden that is allergen friendly. Thomas Ogren is a leader in the field of allergy free gardening, and is well worth looking at if you are interested, or consult a horticultural consultant or designer to help you.
by Hannah Hobbs-Chell
Horticulturist and garden designer/consultant Hannah Hobbs-Chell is the gardener at High Mead Farm, looking after four acres of gardens and landscape.
If you have a question for her, email:firstname.lastname@example.org including a picture if relevant